Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Some colour on a dreary day

It's overcast here in Sydney.  My friend, Helen, issued a rainbow challenge over on Crafty Mamas to help brighten our day. 

I've just finished ironing redondo pieces for 6 rainbow redondo skirts, and giving 6 pairs of rainbow leggings a final press before tags are sewn on.

todays ironing
So I've looked at plenty of rainbows today.  There's some proof that I have been crafting and not just cooking.

Here's what is running around the house and backyard at the moment.

rainbow princess
That is my most favourite silk that I've ever dyed.  I'm still wondering why I gave it to the kids!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Having a bit more fun

It was rainy and dreary in Sydney yesterday which was perfect for my planned day.  I had invited our friends for dinner, and we had a playdate scheduled for today.  For dinner I made slow cooked barbacoa beef which I neglected to photograph.  I love that recipe as it yields a tender shredded beef which is reminiscent of Texas bbq which I am unable to get here.
Going with the bbq theme I also made potato salad.  I used the Thermomix to steam the potatoes and cook the eggs.  It worked a treat.  If I wanted to be super gourmet, I could have made my own mayo, but I always have to be mindful of what I eat, so I used Hellman's/Best Foods light mayonnaise.

potato salad
I made coleslaw with the Thermomix too.  That was super easy peasy.  Again I used the light mayo.

I also made soft buttermilk rolls in the Thermomix.  I thought the meat on a roll with coleslaw would be super yummy.  I was right.  The recipe is from the super awesome Tenina.  She has a superb website of recipes that use the Thermomix.

soft buttermilk rolls
But wait there's complete the meal I made frozen margaritas in the machine.

dinner table
I'm still annoyed that I didn't manage to snap a photo with the meat in it!
And more!  I made caramel popcorn (no Thermomix used here!) for our playdate today.  It's always a hit, and it is ALL gone, the whole half sheet pan.

caramel corn
I also started these divine biscuits.
chocolate thins
Today I finished them.  I did half mint and the other half orange.  To do orange I used some Boyajian pure orange oil.

chocolate mint thins
That's all for now.  Really!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Confession time

I bought myself a new toy

new toy

It's a Thermomix. It's sort of like a powerful blender that also heats. It also has a bit that you can pop on the top, the Varoma, to steam stuff too. A while back I bought a Kitchen Aid blender (not to be confused with my beloved Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer), and I really haven't been happy with it. I also have a really old food processor, so when my tax return arrived, and my husband generously shared a part of his bonus with me, I decided to buy a Thermie for my kitchen.

I know there is going to be a learning curve with using it for certain applications, so I've been trying to use it a lot. The machine was delivered on Friday afternoon. I made the veggie stock concentrate with the consultant as part of the delivery demo. For dinner on Friday night I made pancake batter. Saturday morning I made crepe batter, and while I was cooking crepes I made lemon butter/curd with my last two lemons off of our tree. For Thermomix users I used the Lemon Curd recipe out of the My Way of Cooking book.  The fun aspect of this machine is that I didn't have to stand over the curd while it cooked, so while I cooked crepes, the machine made the curd.  While I can make lemon curd on the stove, it requires constant stirring and attention especially because there is no corn flour (cornstarch) to stabilise the mixture. 

On Sunday we were going over to our friends' house for afternoon tea.  I saw this as a perfect opportunity to have more of a play.  I decided to make strawberry and lemon tarts.  I used a shortbread recipe from the MWOC cookbook, but honestly any pate sucree, sweet pastry, recipe would do.  The pastry mixed together in a flash. 

MWOC shortbread

While the pastry was resting in the fridge, I made the pastry cream.  I thought I would compare the pastry cream/custard recipe in the Everyday Cooking book (EDC) that came with the Thermomix with the pastry cream recipe that is in my book, The Professional Pastry Chef by Bo Friberg.  I have to say that the ingredients in recipes were almost identical.

professional pastry chef

Pastry Cream from The Professional Pastry Chef
480ml milk
1/2 of a vanilla bean, split OR 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons (32g) cornstarch
4 ounces (115g) sugar
1/4 teaspoon (1g) salt
2 eggs

1. Place the milk and the vanilla bean in a heavy-bottomed sauce pan.  Bring to a boil.
2. Keeping an eye on the milk, mix the cornstarch, sugar, and salt in a bowl using a whisk.  Gradually add the eggs, and mix until smooth.
3. Slowly add about one-third of the hot milk to the egg mixture while whisking rapidly.  Pour the tempered egg mixture back into the remaining milk. 
4. Place over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly until the mixture comes to a boil and thickens.  Boil for a few seconds longer to make sure the raw starch taste has disappeared.  Removed the vanilla bean, rinse and save for another use, or add vanilla extract if used.
5. Pour the custard into a bowl and cover with a piece of baking paper.  When cooled, store in the refrigerator.  If made and stored properly, Pastry Cream will keep fresh for up to four days.  However, when it is that old it should only be used for pastries in which it will be baked. 
NOTE: If the heat is too high or you are stirring too slow at the point when the Pastry Cream reaches a boil, it will lump.  If this happens, pass it through a strainer immediately before it cools.

In the Thermomix I whizzed up the sugar until it was fine like icing sugar. 

creme pat beginnig
Then I added all of the ingredients, and set it to heat and stir and 7 minutes later, I had pastry cream.  While the cream cooled in the fridge, Mollie and I made the tart shells.  The tart shells were blind baked.  I should have used my pastry weights, but I was too lazy, so the sides of the tart shells collapsed down a bit during baking which made the pastry thicker than I had intended.  I decided to let go of the perfectionist in me and focus on the fact that everything would taste delicious.

tart shells
The tart shells definitely looked better after they were filled.  In the two small shells I put the lemon curd that I made on Saturday.  The larger shells were filled with pastry cream and topped with strawberries.

yummy tarts
The strawberry tarts were very well received by the kids!  And my biggest "kid" even gave his approval with the caveat that the strawberries should have be sliced thinner as they kept falling off of the tart when he was trying to eat it.
The lemon tarts were my favourite.

lemon tart

Not everything has been perfect.  Last night I decided to follow the recipe for mashed potatoes out of the EDC book.  It has you cook the potatoes in milk which I thought was a great idea, but the milk burned a bit on the bottom of the jug, and I cut the potato pieces too small, so they cooked faster than the recipe stated.  Because they cooked too quickly the blades broke them up, so I ended up with mashed potatoes that were gluey.  I think if I can tweak the recipe, it would be a super easy way to make mash.  I normally boil my potatoes then drain them and use a ricer which results in very fluffy mash.   The kids ate them without complaint, so they weren't that bad!

Also please don't think this is going to become a Thermomix blog.  I've just been quiet on the crafting front because I am working on a batch of rainbow redondos and leggings.  Once they are done, I hope to get back to making a variety of things for me and the kids!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Keeping it simple

I made a top last week.  I desperately need a few new tops for the warmer weather.   Most of my tops are looking very worn and on a positive note they are getting a bit big for me as I am slowly, slowly shrinking.

I pulled out my Farbenmix Fano pattern and some "stella" knit in black.

A thumbs up from me.  The shirt is comfy and I like the yoke with gathered front. The gathers are great for a bigger bust.  Now I need to decide what colour to make next!  

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Climbing higher and higher

Last week we had the annual Spring Fair at school.  I spent the first half of the day with Will and Col doing activities.  One of which was watching Mollie's class do Indian dancing.  Unfortunately I didn't take any photos which I regret.  Mollie didn't do stuff with us.  She was running around with her friends. 
Will saw the crate climbing and was set on doing it.  He patiently waited his turn, and it finally arrived.

Will waiting
Here he is starting out

Will starting
Getting a bit higher

Will a bit higher
Way UP high!

Will way up high
And down he came.  The fun couldn't last forever. 

Will comes down